This summer would have marked twenty years for me in the URJ camp world. With two older siblings talking up Harlam for most of my early childhood, I couldn’t have been more prepared or more excited to finally experience camp for myself. Stories of color war, song session, camp plays and new friends filled me with such anticipation that I could hardly contain myself from talking about camp every chance I got. I remember vividly that fateful day when my mother sat me down and explained that, unfortunately, not enough kids in my age group (I was seven at the time) had signed up for camp and that I wouldn’t be able to attend Camp Harlam until the following summer. I was, of course, devastated.
One year passed and, in 1995, I finally got the chance to join the thousands of people, young and old, who can call Camp Harlam “home”. To illustrate all that Harlam offered me seems impossible, but I’m sure that many reading this blog post already appreciate what a special place Harlam is. I couldn’t have known then that I had actually underestimated the impact being a Harlamite would have on my life. That nineteen years later I would STILL feel a deep connection to camp. It’s not just thinking about the special locations like the chapel on the hill or the specific friendships that I’ve maintained over the years. For me, the most special part of being a Harlamite is the emotions and feelings that are conjured up whenever I hear an old tune or prayer from camp. No matter where I am, these memories take me home again. And now I have ANOTHER home in Bryn Mawr, PA. This time, seven year olds are not just welcomed with open arms, they ARE Harlam Day Camp.
Harlam Day Camp does something that no other URJ camp is able to do. We are not just instilling Jewish values and Harlam traditions into these young peoples’ lives, but we’re also providing the opportunity to send our campers home to share these things with their families on a daily basis. It makes my heart bigger just thinking about how many people and lives we reach this way. Whether our families are new to the Harlam world or alums who just can’t wait for their children to bring camp back home with them, we are spreading the gift of camp to ages across the board. It seems poetic that I should be here during HDC’s inaugural summer with kids even younger than I’d been when I was “too young” those many years ago. I feel so fortunate to be a participant in opening this community up to so many people. Whether looking for a new start in the camp world or a way back into it, HDC provides the opportunity to anyone who just can’t get enough. I haven’t yet really been able to wrap my head around how important this step is for the URJ, but I do look forward to seeing us grow and reach thousands MORE families than ever before.